All who take seriously the scriptures and the lordship of Christ must bow before John 17 and embrace Christian unity as a primary goal for the kingdom. In the remainder of the New Testament I find only two causes that can warrant division in the body of Christ: defective doctrine and defective lifestyle. Christians are duty-bound to separate from those who become subject to church discipline for reasons of personal immorality or theological heterodoxy. Those two reasons, and no others.
Furthermore, it seems clear enough to me that the New Testament ideal for churches is that they be multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and presumably multifaceted with regard to the cultural trappings of the things that they did in common.
So it grieves me to notice a trajectory in this day and time (speaking of the general movement of our denomination, and not singling out any one person) toward what I regard as the opposite position regarding division in the body of Christ:
- From where I sit, it appears that people become less and less willing to take theological stands when doing so risks division in the body of Christ. Thus, theology is on the decline as a cause that can warrant division in the body of Christ, although it is a legitimate scriptural cause for such.
- Don't get me started on the abandonment of church discipline in the Southern Baptist Convention. Much of why we are where we are is a fear on the part of churches that effective church discipline will be unpopular or divisive, I believe.
- The quest for a "homogeneous unit."
- What kind of radio station people listen to and what style of music they want to sing in church.
- Whether the church ought to relocate or stay where it is.
- Attempts to facilitate change to the newest ministerial fad.
- Petty personal differences.
- I stop here not because I am out of things to list, but because I don't know that I would ever run out of things to list.